ALA Annual 2017 Speaker!

We are excited to announce that Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker at ALA Annual 2017!

Bill McKibben is co-founder and Senior Advisor at, an international, grass roots climate movement that leverages people power to develop people-centric solutions to the climate crisis. McKibben is a prolific writer and opened the general public’s eyes to the urgency of climate change back in 1989 with his book The End of Nature, which has been published worldwide in over 24 languages. Among his many related books are Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age; Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet; Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families; and Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth.

McKibben suggests that we conceptualize climate change as a threat on the order of World War III and respond accordingly. With this mindset we can make societal shifts similar to those experienced in the 1940’s wartime era and move to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage. There is urgency to his message as climate change is happening more quickly than scientists anticipated. McKibben argues that the status quo is a luxury we cannot afford. The nonviolent war that McKibben proposes will save lives and has the potential to produce millions of jobs.

His address is made possible through the partnership of SustainRT, ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, and the American Indian Library Association. We are honored and fortunate to have Mr. McKibben join us at ALA Annual to bring us his insights into the role of libraries during a time of climate change.

Date, time, and location of McKibben’s featured address at ALA annual in Chicago are forthcoming.

To help us bring this important program to ALA and support our ongoing work, please consider making a donation to ALA’s Sustainability Roundtable (SustainRT). The instructions to ensure it gets to SustainRT are below. Thank you for anything you can contribute!

To Make a Donation

Online donations are accepted at the Donate to ALA website. Select ALA Roundtables and choose SustainRT for your donation.

If you prefer to mail your donation, please fill out the online form, print it out, and send a check, payable to ALA at:

American Library Association
Development Office
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611

The American Library Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Our federal tax identification number is 36-2166947.

Next SustainRT webinar!

Thursday December 1, 2016, 12:15-12:45pm EST:  David Selden, National Indian Law Library, will talk about the founding of the Committee on Environmental Sustainability under the American Association of Law Libraries. Their activities include a Conference Travel Offset Project and a Resolution on Sustainability in Law Libraries. Free and open to all! REGISTER NOW: (

Sustainability in Action

Even the smallest actions make a huge difference in fostering a culture that embraces sustainability. The High Plains Library District (HPLD), serving most of Weld County CO, understands how libraries can be leaders in sustainability by setting a good example for other business to embrace ideas and opportunities that help reduce consumption of resources and move our community to be more equitable, healthy and economically viable.

The High Plains Library District minimizes its impact on the environment by making efforts to reduce consumption of resources, use resources more wisely, and provide the community with information and opportunities to do the same. Here’s how the HPLD is leading by example:

Solar Panels

Solar Panels have been installed on the roofs of 2 libraries in the District, Centennial Park and Farr Libraries. The solar panels will provide almost 20% of each building’s electrical consumption yet did not require the HPLD to invest any capital in the project. Instead, a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) was utilized which is possible with Xcel Energy’s rebate program for renewable energy and a 20-year contract with SolarCity, a leading solar power and energy efficiency service provider with operations centers in Denver and Parker. SolarCity installs, owns, and maintains the panels while HPLD buys the electricity for the same or lower cost than traditional power plant generated electricity.

View each library’s energy consumption and solar production:

Electric Vehicle Charging Station

The Farr Regional Library (1939 61st Ave. in Greeley) features an Eaton Level 1/Level 2 charging station that is enabled with a Chargepoint interface. The Riverside Library and Cultural Center (3700 Golden Street in Evans) features a Level II charger.  Chargepoint will allow users to charge their credit cards ($1 per hour) for payment, and provide technical support for end users. Set up an account at for easy access to the EV charging stations.

Green Buildings

Our facilities are environmentally responsible and resource efficient in design, construction, operation, maintenance, and renovation. A multi-branch project to reduce energy consumption and improve occupant comfort resulted in a reduction of more than 1.2 million pounds of CO2 emissions which is the equivalent of removing 115 cars from our roads or powering 50 homes for a year.

Green Team

Employees with an interest in environmental sustainability are encouraged to be part of the HPLD’s Green Team. The Green Team meets regularly to discuss and implement ideas that support the District’s Sustainability Statement. Because the Green Team is internally driven, we are able to realize green initiatives that matter to our employees.

Sometimes it’s the small things that have a big impact on our environment. We understand that even small initiatives can make a big difference, so we also provide the public with a way to recycle household batteries and unwanted books. Our libraries also feature bicycle repair stations to encourage using an alternative mode of transportation to our locations.

Contributor Eric Ewing is the Director of Human Resources & Facilities at High Plains Library District.

Re-Localizing the Academic Library: Comments on an essay by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich

Rebekkah Smith Aldrich’s recent essay,  “Local Supports Local Sustainability,” (Library Journal, July 11, 2016 ) offers an idea that I believe is essential not only for the future of libraries, but more generally for a systemic transition to sustainable, resilient communities.  Aldrich writes,

“As we strategize about our unique value position for the future, nothing is more unique than our “local.” Each town, campus, and school that has a library has a culture and physical environment of its own that needs to be nurtured, preserved, and celebrated.”

It strikes me, though, that library re-localization is not going to happen without a fight. In academic libraries, at least, the responsibility for “local” is almost entirely confined to Special Collections, and discussion about the Future of Libraries is dominated by a kind of technological futurism that is distinctly anti-local.

Academic librarians, accustomed to thinking of libraries mainly as repositories of global scholarship and research, have been slow to grasp the importance of re-localization.  The hot trends are all towards better access to conventionally published academic books and journals,  e.g. bundled journal subscriptions, approval plans, eBook collections, patron-driven purchasing, and digitization. As H. Thomas Hickerson sums it up,  “Most of our collections funding is devoted to licensing electronic publications, and most of those publications are academic journals.  And most of what we buy is being bought by everyone.”  

This de-valuing of unique local knowledge stems from an academic culture that generally treats scholars and scholarship as placeless. But in his classic “Becoming Native to this Place,” Wes Jackson argues that this placelessness does a disservice to students.

To a large extent, this book is a challenge to the universities to stop and think what they are doing with the young men and women they are supposed to be preparing for the future. The universities now offer only one serious major; upward mobility. Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a “homecoming” major.

The problem, of course, is not that globalized, online information is bad (In Orion Magazines “Thirty-Year Plan” at least one author mentions global access to information as essential for sustainability).  The problem is that a steady diet of  globalized information without  local and hyper-local information is dangerously incomplete. The Internet is great at spreading globalized information, but Robert Michael Pyle calls the current moment in history a “Dark Age of place-centered knowledge,” and Bill McKibben describes the local information gap in “The Age of Missing Information,” where he addresses the question:  In a globalized world, how do we learn about the places where we actually live?  

The LibQual+ Survey used by many academic libraries measures three dimensions: Affect of Service, Information Control and Library as Place. However, in the survey, questions about “place” are limited to physical facilities, lighting, cleanliness and such. It seems to me that the LibQual+  understanding of place is far too reductive. What if Academic Librarians stopped thinking of libraries as  information access points in glorified study halls and started from a premise that  the academic library is integral to the place-based identity of the whole campus?  What would it take for academic libraries to truly foster resilient community within the constantly shifting flow of scholars and students?  In any case, I believe that if we academic librarians understood the true relation between library and place, we would be using an evaluation metric that incuded local information as part of the equation.

Aldrich leaves us with this challenge:

Libraries need to be part of the localism movement in bigger and more obvious ways.

Yes we do.  Let’s get to work.


Hickerson, H. Thomas. “Rebalancing the Investment in Collections.” Research Library Issues: A Bimonthly Report from ARL, CNI, and SPARC, no. 277 (December 2011): 1–8.

Jackson, Wes. Becoming Native to this Place. University Press of Kentucky, 1993, p.3.

Lyons, Charles. “The library: A distinct local voice?.” First Monday 12, no. 3 (2007).

McKibben, Bill. The age of missing information.  Random House, 1992.

Pyle, Robert Michael. “No child left inside: nature study as a radical act” in Place-based education in the global age.   Gruenewald, David A. and Smith, Gegory A. eds. New York, Londaon: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, p.155-172.  

Thirty Year Plan: An Orion Reader.  Orion Magazine. 2012.

Submitted by Amy Brunvard

Amy Brunvand

Upcoming SustainRT Webinar – Libraries and the Sacredness of Community

Rachael_SheaDon’t miss the next SustainRT webinar, Libraries and the Sacredness of Communityon May 19th, 2016, from 12:15-12:45 P.M. (EST).  Rachael Shea, Head of Public Services at Clark University will be our presenter.  The webinar will explore the importance of relationship and the many ways libraries can contribute to creating sustainable communities. Rachael will describe how the “interconnectedness of things” and the interplay of exchange – give and take – is what underlies true sustainability.


Green Library Resources

Raising patrons’ awareness of green issues goes further than setting an example. Sometimes patrons come to us specifically seeking information about green living, but many patrons who come across a life-changing piece of information in a library foyer or at a service desk might not have previously been looking to have their minds changed. Luckily, there are many resources available out there for libraries who want to get environmental issues into their patrons’ hands and heads. The printable brochures and fact sheets on these sites may use paper and power now, but by raising awareness, they’ll save ten times what they expend in the future!

If everyone on Earth lived like you, how many Earths would humanity need to sustain itself? This is where to find out! Less famously, the Footprint Network has some great brochures available to print and pass out to patrons. But if you need a good way to bring home the impact of individual choices on the environment, especially for an Earth Day or awareness program, this is a great way to do that.

Among the most polished purveyors of printable material on the web, has some beautiful and well-engineered fact sheets that will catch your patrons’ eyes and lead to enlightening discussions. The rest of the site is useful, too, and includes several ways to volunteer with the activist organization.

Light pollution constitutes a double-whammy: not only do bright lights burn fuel, but light pollution destroys the darkness that is so vital to the life and daily cycles of wild animals. The printables on both raise awareness and offer strategies for saving the skies, and by extension, burning fewer fossil fuels.

As any children’s librarian will tell you, don’t mess with the moms! This clean air group offers an extensive library of printable fact sheets and online resources. Specific topics range from indoor air quality and asthma in the Latino community to ocean acidification. Be aware that many of the graphics on this site are large and take a long time to load!

Dr. Pop is a website committed to online education. In 2010, several UCLA scholars created and contributed some lovely fact sheets and a very snazzy printable brochure dedicated to constructing a greener economy. While much of the information they produced is specific to Los Angeles, the brochure could be used as is by almost any library.

As you might expect, the USDE’s website is a goldmine of online information. But what about printables? Though there are no brochures, the department’s Energy Saver Guide is available for free here in both English and Spanish. Download, print and catalog to use less paper, or loan it as a Kindle-ready ebook! Either way, it’s a handy guide and one of the most useful resources of its kind on the Web.

-Submitted by Anna Call

SustainRT Election Results!

The election results are in, and we’d like to congratulate the following:

  • Jodi Shaw – Coordinator-Elect (three year term)
  • Rebekkah Smith Aldrich – Member-at-Large (one year term)
  • Mary Beth Lock – Member-at-Large (two year term)
  • Lindsay L. Marlow – Treasurer (two year term)
  • Kate Hutchens – Secretary (two year term)

To all of our candidates, thank you for your interest and your dedication to the Sustainability Round Table!.  To our elected officials, thank you in advance for the time and energy that you will devote to our Round Table during your terms. To our SustainRT members, thank you for voting!

Green Libraries

It’s not easy being green. For many of our patrons, environmental action is basically out of the question; solar panels are expensive, electric and hybrid vehicles are costly both up front and in the long term, and even reusable grocery bags cost a couple of bucks. For a patron whose dollar won’t stretch to cover Internet access or books for school, environmental consciousness is, understandably, on the back burner.

But isn’t environmental consciousness in line with the true mission of public libraries? We’ve always picked up the slack between what is demanded and what is needed. When our patrons need books, we provide them. When they need Internet access, we do that too. Now, our patrons need to save the Earth. As ever, we need to be present with strategies that will help them do so in a way that does not disrupt their lives, but, in fact, makes them better. That means that we’ve got to become active and purposeful in our pursuit of green librarianship.

The next question is that of how we will manage this feat. As public libraries, we ourselves are often short on funds. Making big changes is often a matter of winning a grant, but absent that, what could we do?

It turns out that there are lots of options for zero investment environmentalism. Though these steps may seem small, remember that there are almost 119,500 libraries in the U.S. If each of those libraries saved just a single kilowatt hour of energy every year, we would collectively save the equivalent of about 62 tons of coal or about 1,208 cubic feet of natural gas! (based on EIA estimates.) That’s a real difference!

So if solar panels aren’t in the stars and geothermal isn’t in your future, don’t despair. Being green can be easy if we work together and take a few easy steps.

  • Goodbye, receipts! (And bags)

If you print receipts, then you know the headache that an ocean of thermal paper can bring. Every time that device spits out a receipt, it uses a few watts of power and several inches of a tree that was sawn, processed, pulped and transported using mainly gasoline. And after all that, most patrons just throw them out! Instead of handing out receipts by default, wait until patrons ask for them, or see if your software will allow patrons to choose to receive an email receipt instead. The same goes for plastic bags: on rainy days they may be in demand, but the rest of the time, it’s possible that only a few people will want them. The other option is to sell reusable, eco-friendly bags. If you add your library’s logo, you’ll get the perks of free advertising, too!

  • Use laptops instead

Full-sized computers are energy hogs. So are their monitors, keyboards, speakers, and other peripherals. Downsizing to laptops can save energy and money. Depending on your population, you may want to switch out just a few desktops and keep those nice big monitors around for patrons with visual impairments. But even switching a couple computers out for laptops can count for a lot! If you’re curious as to exactly how much of a difference the switch can make, try using Microsoft’s free Joulemeter program to determine your machines’ exact power usage. CNET estimated that desktops used about 75 watts an hour, while notebooks used 25.

  • Turn it all off at night

Scanners, copiers, printers, the works. Computer screens can be vampire devices, along with cell phone chargers, cable boxes, gaming consoles, and any device with an electronic display or a “standby” setting. If you don’t already, shut off and unplug everything in the library that features a blinking light. There are a few exceptions, of course – those “Exit” signs should probably stay on. If your library has an IT department, make sure and check with them, too, to see if they need computers or other equipment to remain on overnight during certain days of the week.

  • Incentivize carpooling for library staff

Getting the whole staff into the green groove can be crucial to success – after all, these are the people who will be carefully turning off every printer and power strip every night! If only a few staff members are on board with your library’s new environmental direction, the whole system won’t work in the long run. Getting everyone excited is the key. Green initiatives can be made fun, and carpooling is a gimme: easy to incentivize, hugely impactful on the environment, and possessed of a social aspect that many people may find appealing all by itself. Incentives will depend on your situation, but the sky is the limit. Whether you designate special carpool parking spots that are closer to the library’s staff entrance or maintain a carpool leaderboard whose champions earn baked goods or other incentives, there are a lot of ways to make sharing a ride attractive.

  • Become a recycling headquarters

Did you know that printer cartridges are recyclable? How about single-use batteries? The reason that most people don’t simply throw these into a recycling bin is that the process for breaking them down and making them into new things is a little more complicated than pulping paper. Though there are loads of recycling initiatives out there for non-traditional recyclables, there are not many physical locations where people can drop off their old stuff. As a central community location, your library could make a big difference here. Mailing programs, such as Cartridges for Kids, lend themselves well to the process of becoming a collection point. (Cartridges for Kids also includes free shipping!)  Many office supply and electronics stores also have recycling programs, so there’s the option of letting patrons fill boxes with old electronics and bringing them to Staples once a month. But some libraries have had the most luck with pickup services, especially Call2Recycle. The Winnipeg and Austin Libraries had great luck with this 501(c)4 nonprofit in 2015, when they each won a $1000 grant for turning in old batteries and cell phones!

  • Raise awareness at every turn

From programming to signage, make sure that everyone who comes into the library knows that you’re passionate about this subject. Put out information on energy saving, climate change, and home-based strategies for environmentalism. Invite speakers to discuss climate change. Every time you implement a new green policy, announce it proudly with large signs all over the library. The more awareness you can raise, the more real the issue will be to your patrons, your trustees, and other community organizations. If Malcolm Gladwell’s “tipping point” applies to environmental reform, then every program you run helps to inch society just a little closer to that critical juncture.

Have you implemented eco-friendly policies in your library? Have you encountered challenges, rewards, or a bit of both? Tell us all about it in the comments!

-Submitted by Anna Call

Meet Margaret Woodruff, Candidate for Member-at-Large (One Year Term) of SustainRT!

Wendell Berry says that “husbandry is … the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.”

One of the very best things about living in Vermont is the living thing. From spring’s first green gracing the fields to the touch of frost on the trees, our landscape informs our lives.  I am fortunate to enfold this love of landscape into my work and seek to do this in as many ways as possible.  For me, maintaining “the strands in the living network” involves a focus on local, community-based and resilient programs and practices.

Since I became the director here 5 years ago, we’ve added compost bins to our kitchen, a Transition Town garden to our town green and many programs on creating and maintaining sustainability in our community. In addition to the pantry garden we plan, tend and harvest each year, these programs include presentations on Slow Money, sustainable landscaping, net zero home energy, and local eating as well as the establishment of a local seed library.  The newest and most ambitious project for which the library is a partner is a storm water education and mediation program called “Ahead of the Storm,” demonstrating the use of rain barrels and development of a rain garden.  All of these efforts spring from the library staff and library board’s belief in and support of sustainability.

Therefore, it was with great delight and anticipation that I attended “Sustainable Thinking,” the Master Series Talk by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich at ALA Midwinter 2016.  Her mission to make libraries the heart of sustainable, resilient communities resonated with me personally and with everything we try to do here at the Charlotte Library.  The presentation, combined with the chance to meet up with SustainRT members, provoked my interest in applying to be a Member-at-Large for this roundtable.  I hope to carry the energy and enthusiasm we’ve built in our small Vermont library to the wider ALA community and work to make sustainability a natural and continuing focus of libraries everywhere, to act to bring those strands together.

-Margaret Woodruff, Director, Charlotte Library, Charlotte VT

Meet Tara Lingg, Candidate for Member-at-Large (One Year Term) of SustainRT!

Tara LinngK-cups and bottled water will be the death of me!

If you don’t use it, then you don’t need to recycle it. I am a bit of a cynic regarding recycling as a solution to the huge volume of trash that we (as a society) produce on a daily basis, because of the waste of valuable resources. I believe that small personal changes add to big changes in society. I try to live in a sustainable manner by reducing my own personal footprint, and by extension in my work life.

I have always been interested in sustainability issues; I’ve composted, recycled, reused, and reduced, long before these terms hit the mainstream lexicon. In one of my previous lives (don’t we all have a few!) I was on my way towards a graduate Certification in Waste Management from Stony Brook University. I have seen landfills, sewage treatment plants, and recycling plants up close.

Another “life” got in the way, and I moved on to a job as an electrical estimator, where I learned about building construction and LEEDS certification. During the 90s, when libraries were experiencing a renovation and building boom, I became the “library expert” for my company and got to visit libraries all over Long Island, and worked on a number of library building projects.

This led to my current career as a children’s librarian, where I am in a position to inform and educate our patrons on everything and anything. I want to be able to provide information that is socially equitable, economically feasible, and environmentally sound. Even though libraries are known for good stewardship of resources, I am shocked by the waste of resources that happens on a daily basis, whether it is the half empty bottles of water or piles of empty K cups, that get thrown out; and in the children’s department, lots and lots of cheap plastic crap that is basically landfill material. If these little day to day things that we do as libraries do not engender a sustainable, resilient, and regenerative environment, then even a Gold LEED Building Certification will be of no value to a community.

I am a full-time children’s librarian at Half Hollow Hills Community Library and I also work part time at Mastics Moriches Shirley Community Library. Most of my programs are run using primarily recycled or reused materials, and I am always looking for new ways to incorporate greener practices into our daily work.

After Super Storm Sandy, I saw first hand the power of a resilient library community, MMS was a haven for the people that lost so much due to the storm,(

After the storm I was so proud to be part of American libraries (so many do amazing work!) and I am running for the member at large position to work to inform and educate our staff on the ways provide library services in a sustainable manner to our patrons.